OXFORD – Today marks American Cancer Society’s 34th annual Great American Smokeout, a day that encourages smokers nationwide to take the first steps in quitting for a lifetime.
An Oxford couple took those first steps together nearly a year ago after carrying the habit for the past four decades.
Jerry LeClar lit his last cigarette in December of last year and his wife, Gerry, had her last the month before. They’ve been married 34 years and this past October, they followed through on one of their quitting pledges by taking all the accumulated savings not spent on tobacco products and spending it on a five-day vacation to Las Vegas.
“The money that we would have ordinarily spent every month on cigarettes, after a year, we took a trip to Vegas instead,” said Jerry.
The couple estimated that between them, they smoked around two packs a day. Since quitting, they’ve between $2,200 and $2,500.
“There were some brief periods in my life, special occasions or stressful ones, that for a few days I’d smoke two and a half packs a day just by myself,” recalled Jerry.
Gerry said the moment that convinced her to quit was after her young grandson came in the house on his birthday and complained of how grandma smelled.
“It kind of breaks your heart and I knew that day I needed to quit,” said Gerry.
Both of the LeClars just celebrated their 60th birthdays in 2009 and are keeping busy in retirement. Gerry was an Oxford Elementary School teacher and Jerry worked at Cornell Cooperative Extension.
They both began smoking regularly in their late teens.
“Back then the Marlboro Man commercial was the most popular ad on TV. The Marlboro Man, Joe Camel, there were ads on TV, billboards, in magazines just about everywhere and no one thought nothing of it really,” said Jerry.
“For younger women, I remember Virginia Slims being very trendy,” said Gerry, recalling the Phillip Morris brand. “You weren’t cool if you didn’t smoke,” added Jerry.
Last November, Gerry decided to get involved in a program to help her quit and took the prescribed medication Chantix to help control her cravings.
“It was a really wonderful program. I’d recommend it. They offer you ideas for different activities every day, they check on you with a daily phone call. That worked very well. It was a very supportive program,” said Gerry...